Will Technology Make Ownership Obsolete?


Why own anything when you can access everything? That’s the promise of the emerging subscription-based and shared-economy business models enabled by information technologies. Whether you are in the market for software, a private jet, office space, a prom dress, the latest Star Wars movie, or Spanish rock, you can find a company offering access to it. No need to buy, or even lease long-term.

This smorgasbord approach to life expands our choices and increases the efficient use of resources. If ride-sharing/self-driving car enthusiasts have their way in the long term, for instance, none of us will need private garages, and our cities won’t need to waste valuable space on parking.   

But before we get too utopian about this improbable capitalist leap into a post-ownership society, some important concerns need addressing. What if some of us still want to own our music? And shouldn’t we retain the right to tinker and adapt our goods (like our phones or the software that is about to take control over your refrigerator) as we please?  What will happen to copyright law, intellectual property, and the concept that ideas can be owned?

Join Future Tense on Tuesday, Oct. 25, in Washington, D.C., to consider how technology is transforming the concept of ownership.

Follow the conversation online using #FTOwnership and by following @FutureTenseNow.

Future Tense is a partnership of Arizona State University, New America, and Slate.


12:15 pm: Why Own Anything When You Can Access Everything?

Lauren Belive
Senior Federal Government Relations Manager, Lyft

Holly Maine
Senior Director of Sales, Spotify

Susan Lund
Partner, McKinsey Global Institute


Will Oremus
Senior Technology Writer, Slate

1:00 pm: The Post-Ownership Society

Monica Potts
New America Fellow

1:10 pm: The Illusion Of Ownership

Charles Duan
Director, Patent Reform Project at Public Knowledge

Patrick Ross
Chief Communications Officer, United States Patent and Trademark Office


Jenna McLaughlin
Reporter, The Intercept